The ruins of Nalatale, in the remote Somabhula Flats in central Zimbabwe, are the remains of the capital of the Butua kingdom’s Torwa dynasty. This group rose to prominence following the decline of Great Zimbabwe, founding Khami in the late fifteenth century and Dhlo Dhlo in the sixteenth before moving their capital to Nalatale in the seventeenth. The Torwa prospered for nearly two centuries before the Rozwi people conquered and settled the land.
The site is an elliptical complex of dressed granite blocks in the building tradition of Great Zimbabwe. The walls reveal elaborate stonework designs, including check, herringbone, and chevron patterns. In the 1800s, Europeans looking for gold and treasures desecrated the site. Declared a national monument in the 1960s, remedial interventions were undertaken to conserve the ruins, but restoration efforts ceased in the 1980s due to a lack of funding. Today, the foundations and walls face serious risk of collapse and require urgent intervention. Furthermore, the political and economic problems that have gripped Zimbabwe severely limit conservation efforts and available resources.
Since the Watch
In November 2013, the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) were awarded over $64,000 from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation of the U.S. Department of State for the restoration of the collapsed walls of the Nalatale ruins. The project, which involved restoration of the dry-stone walls as well as site interpretation, was completed in September 2014. November 2014